The Abbas Kiarostami retrospective at MoMA this month has been prompting some interesting reflections on the work of the great Iranian filmmaker. He speaks for himself in an interview with Keith Uhlich at The House Next Door:
If, as Jean-Luc Godard is quoted as saying, â€œcinema begins with Griffith and ends with Kiarostamiâ€ then where does that leave us? Is this definitely the end of things? Or does this â€œendâ€ signify a rebirth?
I donâ€™t think that Godard said that. If he did say it in one place then he took it back someplace else. Of me he has said, â€œI only like one of Kiarostamiâ€™s films.â€ And in one of his recent comments he said, â€œKiarostami is taking cinema down the wrong road.â€ At one point I was great in Godardâ€™s eye. Now Iâ€™m descended. We shouldnâ€™t take such comments very seriously. The films that last are determined by time. Itâ€™s not how much you sell it for or how many prizes you get or what the market says is good at the moment. Itâ€™s time.
Itâ€™s not quite a reversal, acknowledged or otherwise, but it does suggest a changed attitude, and a welcome one, perhaps spurred along by a desire to counter Bush’s demonization of what he chooses to call "Iran." Or perhaps Denby has decided that a nonserious work of movie art can also be a philosophical quest that combines humanism with "enchanting formal play." Still, there is one strange recurring element in his account of the film: his claim that the protagonist â€œtries to induce strangers to help him commit suicide." This is a curious and decidedly nonhumanist description of a project he described accurately in another review. In fact, the protagonist offers to pay each stranger he meets to retrieve him from a hole in the ground if heâ€™s still alive the next morning or to bury him if heâ€™s dead.
Elsewhere, skimmed over from the past week: A.O. Scott at the New York Times suggests that "The radicalism of Mr. Kiarostamiâ€™s approach to narrative filmmaking may lie in just how thoroughly his films confound that basic question without slipping into abstraction."
Update: Mr. Uhlich also has an account of his visit to the MoMA’s Kiarostami media installation that finds him taking the subway to Queens with the director here.
+ Kiarostami at MoMA, Day 2: Conversing with Kiarostami (The House Next Door)
+ Kiarostami at MoMA, Day 1a: Birth of Light & Taste of Cherry (The House Next Door)
+ Denby on Kiarostami and Resnais (Chicago Reader)
+ Trips to Nowhere and Everywhere, With Iranâ€™s Poet of the Cinema (NY Times)